16 August 2017
By Bryan Smyth
HSE figures provided to the Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher TD (Cork North Central) show that more than 90,000 bed days were lost in the hospital system so far this year owing to delayed discharges.
Patients are classified as delayed discharges when they no longer need to be cared for in an acute hospital setting but has no access to appropriate step down care.
“To lose over 90,000 bed days when there are over 86,000 people waiting for treatment is not only unacceptable.
“From both a resource and patient care point of view, these lost bed days are unjustifiable.
“It is further evidence that the level of support being provided to mainly older patients is simply not good enough.
“We know that across the State, there are too few step down beds in the health system and that home supports remain inadequate.
“On average more than 15,000 bed days were lost each month in hospitals nationwide. The number fluctuated from 13,105 in February to 16,699 in April.
“The excessive and unforgivable situation where hundreds of patients are lying on trolleys in Emergency Departments or in wards is directly related to the number of bed days lost in the system.
“If a fraction of these lost days were put back into use every day through better supports for older people upon discharge, we could radically reduce the number of people lying on trolleys.
“What the HSE isn’t telling us is exactly how long people are being delayed. I asked the HSE for a breakdown on the length of stay and I was given the staggering response that ‘regarding the length of time that people are delayed … this data is not recorded’.
“I would have thought that such information would be monitored and recorded as a matter of course.
“Until we know how long patients are staying, how can we calculate the actual cost to the health system?
“My instinct is that the amount expended keeping these patients in hospital is a lot more than the cost of providing decent, quality home care packages or care in a step-down care facility.
“What we do know though is this problem will continue unless real resources are put in to tackle it. The demographic changes alone will ensure that such investment is necessary,” concluded Kelleher.